Knitting Stitches to Show Off Variegated Yarn

What knitting stitches to apply to that glorious skein of yarn that found you last weekend at your favorite store?  If it’s a multicolored hand-painted beauty, that’s far from an idle question. Here’s a little collection of simple, small repeat patterns perfect for things like socks or mittens, where ginormous complicated patterns don’t fit well.

Just so we start from the same page, let’s assume your goals are like mine: avoiding obvious pooling, barber-polling, or striping of colors. If you were to knit a stockinette swatch from your fab new skein, it might look like this first photo. But there are so many other choices!

Variegated swatch stockinette


Slip Stitch or Slipped Stitch

Slipped Stitch

There are many variations of slipped knitting stitch patterns, and this family of knitting stitches can be used in different ways to create multiple fabric layers or mosaic color patterns. In the case of variegated yarns, a slip stitch pattern is used to scramble the colors by displacing stitches across two or more rows of knitting.

Worked in the round, the pattern is:

Setup rnd:  (DW1, K3) repeat.

Rnd 1 & 2: (Sl1, K3) repeat.

Rnd 3: (Sl1, K1, DW1, K1) repeat.

Rnd 4 & 5: (K2, Sl1, K1) repeat.

Rnd 6: (DW1, K1, Sl1, K1) repeat.

Where DW1 means “Double wrap 1 st” i.e.,  K the next st winding the yarn twice around the right needle. This st will be slipped purlwise for the next 3 rows. The DW provides the necessary extra st height.

To modify this knitting stitch for a flat piece, just replace “K” with “P” in odd numbered rows after the Setup Row.

Here’s a link to the pattern for the Slip One Skip Two Socks with photos in two different variegated yarns, and a Slip Stitch Cardigan pattern that uses a slightly simpler slip stitch version.

Basket Weave Knitting Stitches

Basketweave swatchHere again, there is a whole family of variations on basket weave stitches.  Worked in a solid color yarn, it looks a lot more like basket weaving. Not that you’d guess it from its variegated cousins. Basket Weave knitting stitches alternate blocks of purl and knit stitches to add texture, cleverly breaking up stripes in the process.  In this swatch, for example, you can see where pools of black might appear, but the reverse stockinette alternated with stockinette proper throw the lines of yarn off just enough to clear the pool (so to speak).

In this swatch, I’ve actually got two variations of basket weave stitch going on. Although the casual garment viewer probably wouldn’t figure that out, it adds to the pool- and stripe-foiling.

Here’s version A:

Rnd 1-4: (K2, P2) repeat.

Rnd 5-8: (P2, K2) repeat.

Version B is just shorter and squarer:

Rnd 1-2: (K2, P2) repeat.

Rnd 3-4: (P2, K2) repeat.

Again, to work this pattern flat, swap “K” for “P” in the even numbered rows.

Seed Stitch

Seed Knitting Stitch variations

If you’ve been reading prior posts, you’ve already seen this one, but here it is for the sake of completeness. Seed stitch is one of those delightfully mindless knitting stitches, and yet it can add just enough texture to compliment variegated yarn well. I was granddaughter to one of those famously always-knitting Midwestern grannies, and as she slid into increasing old age, she relied on seed stitch to get her through more and more knitting projects. I suppose, technically, seed stitch is really just basket weave stitch reduced to its purest form. Here are two versions of it.

Traditional Seed Stitch

This is the staid and predictable version. It appears in the swatch above the startlingly green dots.

Rnd 1: K1, P1

Rnd 2: P1, K1

Wash, rinse repeat!

Free Form Seed Stitch

This takes a little more attention to the needles. Follow the pattern  above, but every time you come to stitches on your left-hand needle in some particular color (it doesn’t usually matter which one) either purl or knit them all. When you get to the end of those colored stitches, revert to your K1, P1. The point of using a color is to inject apparently random shifts in the texture. You really could use anything though. Every time a commercial comes on TV, purl 10 sts. Every time your toddler asks, “Why?”, purl 8 sts, etc.

More stitches for variegated yarn…..

ITY on Ravelry


Knitter, hiker, skier, dog owner. Zealous novel reader. Loathes licorice. Owner of Intrepid Tulips Yarn in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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